NOAA: BP oil spill contributed to dolphin deaths

NOAA: BP oil spill contributed to dolphin deaths

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - NOAA released a report Wednesday saying the Deepwater Horizon oil spill has contributed to a large number of dolphin deaths in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. A team of scientists has been studying the impact the BP oil spill has had on bottlenose dolphins since the start of the spill in 2010.

In the report published Wednesday, scientists say those dolphins had lesions consistent with petroleum exposure, "we found that dying dolphins after the oil spill had distinct adrenal gland and lung lesions that were not present in the stranded dolphins from other areas," said Dr. Kathleen Colegrove, University of Illinois Veterinary Pathologist.

NOAA says this is the latest report in a series of studies into dolphin deaths since the BP oil spill 5 years ago. NOAA adds it supports findings from a 2011 study of the heavily oiled Barataria Bay that showed live dolphins there had poor health as well as adrenal and lung disease, "more than 1 in 5 dolphins had bacterial pneumonia caused by a variety of bacteria types most of these pneumonia cases were severe that caused or at least contributed to death for those dolphins, really, in fact, these dolphins had some of the most severe lung lesions I have ever seen in wild dolphins from throughout the U.S," said Colegrove.

NOAA pointed out this is the largest number of dead bottlenose dolphin strandings on record in the Northern Gulf.

NOAA says its team of scientists will continue to study Gulf dolphins to see how long those conditions will last. We reached out to BP Wednesday about the latest findings, Geoff Morrell, BP's senior vice president for U.S. Communications and External Affairs said in a statement:

"The data we have seen thus far, including the new study from NOAA, do not show that oil from the Deepwater Horizon accident caused an increase in dolphin mortality. This new paper fails to show that the illnesses observed in some dolphins were caused by exposure to Macondo oil. In fact, numerous studies conducted over the last several decades have shown that respiratory illness – one of the conditions cited – is among the most common causes of death for bottlenose dolphins, including a study where half of the dolphins examined had pneumonia.* Based on a review of available literature, we are unaware of any toxicological studies linking lung disease in bottlenose dolphins to exposure to oil or other environmental contaminants.

According to NOAA, the Gulf "unusual mortality event" (UME) began in February 2010, months before the spill. Even though the UME may have overlapped in some areas with the oil spill, correlation is not evidence of causation. Importantly, oil was not identified as the cause of death in any of the 130 dolphin necropsies (animal autopsies) conducted by the government's own veterinarians. Also, despite Freedom of Information Act Requests, NOAA has refused to publicly release hundreds of additional dolphin necropsy reports. Just a small sample set of the dolphins (46) were used for this study."

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